What is the best tuner for a 5.9 Cummins?

This article covers a few options and explains which tuner – programmer I feel is best for a 5.9 Cummins truck and why:

I offer custom 5.9 Cummins Engine and 48RE Transmission tuning through the following platforms:

  • Smarty UDC Pro (Smarty MM3 & Smarty Touch Compatible)
  • EFI Live

There is a lot of talk about “which tuner is best” and usually guys who say one platform is best over another platform are actually talking about the tunes instead of the actual tuning platform.  These tuning platforms are just a means to get the programming (tune) into your ECM.  All of the platforms have very similar capabilities which means a guy running EFI-Live who says “EFI is the best” could in most cases get the exact same results running the MM3 or Smarty Touch.

Another way to think of tuning platforms vs tunes is computer software.  If you buy a computer program, say for example a photo editing program, it doesn’t matter whether the company delivers the software via CD, USB Flash Drive or a direct download (think “tuning platforms”).  Each of those delivery methods will install the exact same photo editing software (think “tunes”) on your computer (think ECM).

 That said, there are some differences in capabilities between the platforms which will make one or the other a better choice for YOU; which is what really matters.  The intent of this article is to help you weigh your options and decide which platform is right for your situation.  I have no dog in this fight as I use them all so I’ll try and illustrate the positives of each setup:

My First Choice of Tuners for 03-07 5.9 Cummins Trucks:

MM3 and Smarty Touch:

The MM3 is my 1st choice in tuners and I’ll explain why below; but BOTH the MM3 and Smarty Touch share an important feature which makes them hands down the safest tuning platform: Automated failed flash recovery. I had a customer on one of the other platforms below experience an interrupted flash which left him dead in the water. The company actually requested he send his ECM in to have it reset to the factory tune.  The MM3 and Smarty Touch can both put your ECM into boot loader mode which will fix most “bricked” situations.  All other platforms require the ECM to be removed and bench flashed to recover from a catastrophic failed flash.

This recovery mode typically takes 5-6 minutes to correct a bricked ECM which is a huge advantage over other platforms.

The Smarty MM3 and Smarty Touch ar noe very similar but have some key differences. The Smarty Touch is a touch screen tuner with different power level tunes pre-installed. These tunes don’t include any transmission tuning on 03-07 5.9 Cummins trucks.

The MM3 Tuner is my 1st choice in tuners because it has a lower price and it comes with the Smarty Comm Mod (a $209 value and required for On The Fly Tuning). To contrast, a Smarty Touch customer would have to buy the Smarty Touch at a higher price than the MM3 and then add the comm mod for an extra $209. If you’re in the market for custom tuning, I don’t see any benefit to paying the higher initial costs of the Smarty Touch because you will most likely never use the pre-installed tunes it comes with.

With that said, The Smarty Touch can accept custom tuning, so if you already own one place an order and send me your stock file! I started with a Smarty Touch and still use it today, running the same tunes I’m selling here.

Both the MM3 and Smarty Touch have excellent data-logging capabilities which is key in nailing down any trouble spots with your tune.

The MM3 can be purchased directly from me on my Products page HERE.

Main MM3/Touch Benefits:

-Gauge screen included
-Optional EGT Probe display on screen
-Most robust on the fly tuning (04.5+)
-Superior ECM recovery capability
-Unlimited tune capacity
-Read DTC codes
-Change Tire Size

Main MM3/Touch Drawbacks:

-Older looking Screen
-No external sensors (Except EGT Probe)

EFI Live:

EFI-Live is only for 06-07 Trucks.  In most cases I recommend the MM3 tuner but there are specific cases where EFI-Live may be your best option.  Typically those cases are for customers who already have EFI live switch tuning or for customers who have invested in a platform like the CTS3.

EFI Live is capable of switching tunes on the fly, but the parameters available that can change on the fly are much more limited than the MM3/Touch system.  The MM3/Touch can literally change entire tunes on the fly where with EFI it’s more accurate to say you are switching power levels with most of the underlying tune remaining the same.

EFI Live Package HERE

Main EFI Live Benefits:

-More affordable
-Simpler tune switching system
-Can be used with a display like the CTS3

Main EFI Live Drawbacks:

-Cannot change tire size
-Only works on 2006-2007 trucks
-Less capable failed flash recovery than MM3/Touch

HP Tuners:

HP Tuners is no longer supported due to ongoing issues with this tuning platform.

Edge CTS3:

The Edge CTS3 IS NOT a custom tunable platform… Full Stop as far as using it as a tuner.  However, it is best  coupled with EFI Live Tuning.  A lot of guys prefer the CTS3 because it has a better looking screen and has more capabilities for add-ons like sensors or a backup camera than the MM3/Touch.

No matter which tuning platform you choose, I have you covered.

-Take me to the next article: Modded Project trucks

-Take Me back to Custom Tuning Products

See my tuning in action…

High Altitude 12 Valve Tune Cold Start

An early version of my towing tune…